Tribute to John Healy OAM

Posted on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Life Member & City Tattersalls Club Patron


Today is a dark day in the life of our Club. It is with great sadness that I advise you that John Francis Healy – OAM, the legend of our Club and former Chairman of the Board passed away peacefully this morning.

John steered our Club as Chairman from 1991 to 2008. His contribution over the many decades was incredible and invaluable.

John was a City Tatts Member since 1964, an inspirational Fitness Trainer, Patron of our Racquet Ball Club and Cheetahs Swimming Club and Captain of the Harriers. John was a member of the Board from 1988-2008 and Chairman of the Board for 17 years, making John the 4th longest-serving Chairman behind big names like Clarke, Taylor and Herdsman.

John had always had a passion for fitness, some would say an obsession. As a young car salesman in the 1960’s, John had wanted to train under the legendary fitness guru, George Daldry, which led him to become a City Tatts Member in 1964.

Like many others, John attended George’s “Spartan” training session for many years. He became an inspirational fitness trainer in his own right. As a trainer, he met many people along the way who embraced his techniques. These included Terry Fearnley, who at that time was coaching Rugby League’s Parramatta Reserve Grade and invited John to do some conditioning work with the team before the Grand Final.

Recently over lunch with mates at his place before moving up North to be closer to his family, John recalled, “I began in the two weeks before the Grand Final, took them to Parramatta Park and gave them the George Daldry treatment”. Many of you would know exactly what kind of torture that means! The team went on to win the 1975 Grand Final.

“They would have won the comp with or without me because they were a great side. In fact, they won the comp despite me!”

John carried on with Terry, who moved on to coach the 1st-grade side over the ensuing years, this included the 1977 Grand Final, which was the first-ever draw in a Rugby League Final.

John’s reputation as a conditioning coach is legendary at St Joseph’s College when after initially training the rowers in 1980, he was asked to train the First XV rugby side.

“I introduced them to something that gave them an advantage”.

In 1981, the Centenary year for the school, Joeys won the premiership and again in 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. They went onto win the GPS premiership for 12 out of the 13 years. For the next 30 years, John’s name was associated with St Joseph’s College Rugby and the John Healy Fitness Centre still honours his contribution to fitness and the development of healthy young men at the College today.

Though John’s contribution to our City Tatts fitness centre is the stuff of legend, it was his vision and leadership as a Board member and as the Club’s Chairman for 17 years that will be forever immortalised in the history of City Tatts.

John became a Committee Member in 1988 and then Chairman in 1991, however his vision of what City Tatts could become was formulated in 1970 when he visited the New York Athletic Club. John came to the Club’s Board during a time when traditionally it was made up of mainly racing men. To some, he was viewed as an outsider.

The New York Athletic Club gave John a vision of a future Club that “offers eight or nine floors of accommodation, magnificent gymnasium and swimming pool. An exclusive, upmarket Club.”

His legacy was to broaden the number of businesswomen on the Board. He said “We’re in a prime location, have wonderful facilities. The Board’s Composition should extend beyond the racing fraternity”

John, ably assisted by Keith Free, the Club Treasurer, laid the foundation and created the opportunity for the Club to expand and grow into the future, as we can see from the Air Space Development Project, which we look forward to delivering in his honour.

At a special lunch held in 2018 to honour John, we attributed the progress of our Club in no small measure to John’s vision and dedication.

“…the legacy he laid down, highlighted his shrewd decision making. This included the welcoming of Directors with a variety of commercial skills, his foresight to explore diversification, and his championing of the purchase of the Merivale building at 194 Pitt Street”. (Pat Campion, 2018)

Indeed, without John’s foresight, it would be difficult to see how the opportunity for the Air Space Development could have come to fruition and certainty, not to the scale of opportunity we currently have. John’s vision of The New York Athletic Club of Sydney is alive and well.

One Member who remembers very well some of the meetings that John had to Chair, described him as “Grace under fire”.

During some very tough AGM’s, General and Special Meetings, John always maintained a dignified and courteous presence. No matter what was thrown at him from the floor, he never wavered from the task at hand. John created a culture of decency, honesty and integrity, but above all, he maintained a respect for Members.

In the Chairman’s introduction of the Centenary history book in 1995, John wrote;

“Looking back over the years, the Club’s success has been largely due to the vision of those who have so far-sighted guided its fortunes to meet developing needs. These dynamic people have come from the ranks of both staff and Committee, and at this time we should remember them with deep gratitude”.

John Francis Healy, you were one of these “dynamic people”. One whose foresight and vision has contributed greatly to City Tatts and for that vision and your many years of dedication, we Members will be forever grateful.

John had a long and largely good life, which is fitting for the quality of man that he was. The Club sends it condolences to his family.

Thank you and Rest In Peace, my old friend.

John Francis Healy – OAM & CTC Club Patron 16th August 1929 – 19th May 2020

Patrick Campion
Chairman of the Board